Tag Archives: IT Consulting

Winter 2017: Disaster For Your Data?

26 Oct 16
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With winter just around the corner, everyone around you may be getting “all wrapped up” in the upcoming holiday season…

But you’ve got a business to run, customers to keep happy and mission-critical data to keep safe, even if a major blizzard, lightning strike, windstorm or epic flood is taking place right outside your door.

Here are 5 easy steps you can take this holiday season to get your office prepared for this winter’s worst, without seeming like Mr. Grinch.

Be ready for power outages. A power outage can hurt your business in more ways than you think. Besides employee downtime, it takes time to safely get everything back up and running. Then you need to make sure no critical files have been damaged or lost.

Autosave features can help minimize lost files in a sudden power outage. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can give your team anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to back up files and properly shut down equipment. If you need longer power durability during an outage, you might want to look into a backup generator.

Keep lines of communication open. Customer frustration due to production delays and not being able to reach key people at your company can be very costly in terms of both revenues and your company’s reputation. Here are three ways to make sure calls to your office don’t get bobbled when a storm rolls in:
1. Create a new automated greeting to let callers know about changes in hours or closings.
2. Set up an emergency override that automatically reroutes key phone lines to one or more numbers that can be reached during an outage.
3. Make sure you and your staff can access voice mail remotely – from a smartphone, by e-mail as an attached sound file or transcribed message, or as a text notification.

Manage employees working from home. Many of your employees can work from home if need be. But you’ll need to prepare in advance if it’s not the norm at your company. Have your IT specialist check with employees who could work from home during rough weather. They’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) to safely access the company network. Be sure it’s set up well in advance to avoid any glitches when that winter storm hits and you need it most.

Have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) ready to go. Unless you can afford to shut down for days at a time, or even just a few hours, it’s absolutely critical to keep a written DRP on hand. Write out step-by-step details of who does what in every type of winter disruption – from simple power outages to blizzards, flooding or building damage caused by heavy winds or lightning. A downed network can cost your company big-time every minute it’s offline. Make sure your plan includes one or more ways to get it back up and running ASAP. Consider virtualizing key parts or all of your network so your team can access it remotely. Once you’ve written out your plan, keep one copy at your office, one at home and one with your IT specialist.

Get help from a professional you can trust. Trying to recover your data after a sudden or serious outage without professional help is business suicide. One misstep can result in losing critical files forever, or weeks of downtime. Make sure you’re working with a pro who will not only help set up a recovery plan, but has experience in data recovery. The old adage about an ounce of prevention applies doubly when it comes to working with the right people who can help you prepare for – and recover from – whatever winter throws your way.

Spooked About Your Network’s Security?

13 Oct 16
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You should be, unless somebody’s keeping a vigilant eye on it for you…
Not too long ago, in a place not so far away…when ancient hordes attacked your city, a single breach in the wall could mean certain death – or at least the end of life as you know it.
Yet times change…or do they?
Attacks by today’s cybercriminals on your network, while perhaps not physically life-threatening, can inflict severe damage to the life and health of your business.
FACT: The odds of a successful cyber-attack against your business today are one in five. And, at a typical cost of $300,000 or more, a full 60% of smaller businesses that suffer a breach shut their doors for good within six months, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance.
So, who’s “guarding the gate” at your company’s network?
The problem with keeping your network safe today is that these attacks don’t just happen randomly – they are constant and unrelenting. Ever more sophisticated “robot” software is making it easier than ever for attackers to stalk the Internet, probing for vulnerabilities 24/7.
Here are just a few of the ways these vigilantes can penetrate your network’s defenses:
An SQL Injection can destroy your database, steal e-mail addresses, usernames and passwords, gain access to sensitive client management and billing data, deface your web site and defraud your business. It’s also now the most frequent mode of attack.
Open Ports – An open port is basically a channel for Internet data to connect with devices on your network. A firewall normally filters data, but hacker “web-bots” constantly probe for vulnerabilities. When they find an open port, and if they have installed malicious code inside your system, they are then able to control your devices.
In a DDoS attack, a network of computers attacks a single server with a surge of traffic, forcing it to crash. They most often target political organizations and banks; however, small businesses are also at risk. To avoid getting shut down, you need a defense plan in place and around-the-clock monitoring.
Malware and Viruses – Unfortunately, anti-malware and antivirus software programs in reality often fall short of claims, leaving many SMB networks highly vulnerable. The problem is twofold: First, they only detect a breach after the malware or virus has infected your system. Second, detection solutions often lag behind the latest threats by days or even weeks, leaving a big window for them to inflict heavy damage.
Targeted E-mails – Cybercriminals seem to get better each day at creating enticing e-mails that innocent readers will click on without a moment’s thought. If that reader happens to be on your network, you now have yet another hidden attacker to deal with.
“Drive-By Downloads” are a client-side intrusion where a person in your network innocently picks up a nasty bug…
Credit Card Theft – How would you feel if one of your customers’ credit cards got hacked due to a flaw in your security? Now imagine how you would feel if that incident turned into a lawsuit… Yet that is exactly what can happen if your DLP (Data Loss Prevention) system isn’t up to snuff. As you’ve no doubt seen in the news, credit card data theft is now epidemic. To keep customer data safe and maintain PCI compliance, it’s absolutely crucial to make sure your DLP is on duty 100% of the time.
As cybercriminals hone their evil craft, we must now be on guard, as our businesses grow ever more web-dependent. Yet how do you find the time to keep up with it all, much less make sure your network is safe?
Lucky for you, there’s a silver dagger…our Techno Pros can help you find and install the right protection.  Contact us.

 

 

 

The One Attack No Tech Can Stop

22 Sep 16
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You can defend your data with all the latest and best technology. But if just one team member gets tricked into giving away the keys to the castle, it’s game over. Hackers know this. And that’s why so many use social engineering to break in.

And it’s not just the big companies you hear about on the news. On February 3, 2016 a suspect posing as the CEO of Magnolia Health Corp. obtained a spreadsheet with sensitive data about their employees. On February 23, someone posing as an employee of Central Concrete Supply Company obtained confidential W2 records and disappeared with them.

In a 2011 survey, Check Point Software Technologies found that nearly half of the companies surveyed reported one or more social engineering attacks resulting in losses ranging anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 per occurrence.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t any whiz-bang tricks or tools that will automatically prevent a clever “social engineer” (SE) from breaking in. The keys to protection are awareness and vigilance. To help you know what to watch for, here are five common ploys – and how to deflect them:

Familiarity – In this type of scheme, the hacker becomes familiar to an employee. Social networking sites can reveal an employee’s schedule and favorite hangouts. The hacker might then frequent the same bar or restaurant. After a drink or two, some key fact may slip out… The best way to bust this ploy is to be careful to not get lulled into a false sense of security around people you haven’t thoroughly vetted.

The Consultant – A social engineer poses as a consultant for hire. Once they get the gig they can scoop up all the info they need from you and your team because of their seeming authority. Watch for this especially with IT consultants. Do NOT trust blindly. Vet every consultant, and never give all the keys to the kingdom. Just because someone has the skills to fix your server or network doesn’t mean they won’t steal your data. Vet thoroughly, and, as Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify’.

Piggybacking – The SE waits by a secured door for someone to use their passcode and enters right behind them. Or the SE struggles with a heavy box and asks a legit employee to hold the door open for them. Being kind and helpful, the employee helps the SE right into the building… free to do as they please. To foil this one, never forget the dangers of allowing a stranger in without proper clearance.

The Interview – Key information often escapes during interviews. A smart social engineer will gain an interview and deftly pick up all the information they need to hack into your network. Make sure any data provided during an interview offers nothing in the way of secrets. Keep the conversation light, or even superficial to avoid leaking critical data.

Angry Man – You may have seen this on TV… Somebody has an angry tone on the phone, or is grumbling to themselves as if they’ve just had an argument. We all tend to avoid people like that. Enough people avoid them and the way is cleared into the heart of the company – and your data. Don’t go along with it. When you see this exploit unfolding, call security.

The key to preventing social engineering attacks is a well-trained workforce. You and your people may be your company’s greatest asset. Yet without regular, proper training, human beings can be the weakest link in your company’s data defenses.

Contact a TechnoPro for more information.

Lost Employee Smartphone? Do This NOW!

07 Sep 16
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“Hey boss, I lost my smartphone.”
How well have you prepared for this moment? It will happen sooner or later. If your company has a plan in place, no big deal. If not, you may suddenly get that sinking feeling in your gut …
And well you might. You now have three big worries:
Compliance Issues – If your employee had access to information covered by any number of regulations, your company could be subject to stiff penalties. One employer we know of wound up with a $900,000 fine.
Data Security – Sensitive company data in the wrong hands could spell disaster. Access to your network, secure sites, proprietary files, work-related e-mails and corporate secrets may now be out of your control. You must move quickly to prevent serious financial harm.
Employee Privacy and Property Concerns – If a valued employee had family photos and movies on the device, and you remotely delete all data on the phone, you may now have a disgruntled, or even uncooperative, employee. Especially if company policy regarding BYOD (bring your own device) and data loss were not clearly stated and agreed to up-front.
So how do you prevent a relatively minor incident from blowing up into a big problem? Here are seven smart measures you can take right now to prepare for the day an employee smartphone is lost or stolen:
1. Install a mobile device management (MDM) system on any employee device to be used at work. This software can create a virtual wall separating work data from personal. It facilitates any security measures you wish to impose. And to protect employee privacy, it can limit company access to work data only.
2. Determine which devices will be allowed and which types of company data people may access from them.
3. Require that employees agree with an Acceptable Use Policy before they connect to your network. Make sure these include notice as to conditions in which company data may be “wiped” – i.e., destroyed. Also include specific policies regarding device inspection and removal of company records.
4. Put strong data protection practices in place. Require use of hard-to-crack passwords and auto-locking after periods of inactivity. Establish protocols for reporting lost or stolen devices. Mandate antivirus and other protective software as well as regular backups.
5. Designate someone at your company to authorize access to software and critical data. This person can also be your main point of contact for questions about BYOD policy and practices. It might also work well to distribute a resource page or FAQ document to your employees.
6. Establish a standard protocol for what to do when a device is lost or stolen. Both Android and iOS phones have features that allow device owners to locate, lock and/or “wipe” all data on their phones. Make sure your policy requires that these features are set up in advance. Then, when a device is lost or stolen, your employee can be instructed to take appropriate action according to your protocol in order to protect company data.
7. And finally, your best protection is to implement a well-crafted BYOD policy in advance. Develop it in partnership with risk management and operations personnel, as well as legal counsel and IT professionals, to come up with an effective and comprehensive plan.
Don’t risk waiting until an incident occurs!
This is a serious vulnerability that can and must be addressed in order to assure the safety of your company’s data and systems.
Contact a Techno Pro today to see how we can help.
Backup

Will Your Backups Be There When You Need Them?

06 Jul 16
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When the livelihood of your business depends on data stored in your computer network, you simply cannot afford to leave anything to chance. Data preservation and the ability to retrieve it at any point in time is the foundation of business continuity.

Yet the facts about backup failures are shocking:

  • According to the Boston Computing Network, 31% of PC users have lost data due to events “beyond their control.”
  • Analysts at the Hughes Marketing Group found that 40% of businesses that experience a critical IT failure go out of business within one year.
  • In a recent Gartner study, only 35% of backup tests were successful.

Some of the more common reasons for backup failures include unintentional formatting of a hard drive, accidental data deletion, malware or virus attack, firmware corruption, natural disasters, logical errors and continued computer operation when the hard drive is starting to fail.

So how certain are you that your backup system is 100% reliable? Could a false sense of security be preventing you from taking actions that will insure your backups will really be there when you need them?

7 Ways to Avoid Data Disaster Due To Backup Failure

Without proactive measures in place – and Murphy’s Law being what it is – the odds of a successful restoration when you need it most may not be as great as you’d like to think… So what can you do? Here are seven ways to avoid a damaging loss of data due to backup failure.

  1. Insist on regular, remote and redundant processes. A good rule of thumb is 3-2-1. That means three copies of your data stored in two off-site locations, backed up a minimum of one time per day.
  1. Don’t go too cheap on disk drives. Less expensive arrays that save money by doing without features like redundant power supply and hot spare disks may leave your data at risk.
  1. Guard against human error. Make sure people performing backups and restores know exactly what to do – and what not to do. Take people out of the loop and automate wherever possible. And be especially cautious in situations where backups aren’t a part of someone’s regular duties.
  1. Are your backup software settings being checked routinely? When new software or updates are put into service, a change in the way the settings are configured can cause incomplete backups, or backups that fail completely. Do the people who maintain your backups include this on their regular to-do list?
  1. Could some files be getting left out? As resources are added and priorities shift, files and folders can get misplaced or accidentally left off the backup list. Insist on a quarterly or annual meeting with your backup management team to make sure all mission-critical files are included in your organization’s data recovery systems.
  1. Address network issues immediately. Any component in your network that isn’t working properly can introduce another point of failure in your backup process. Every juncture in your network, from a misconfigured switch to a flaky host bus adapter, can hurt your backups.
  1. Ask for help with your data backup and recovery system. You cannot be expected to be an expert in all things. Yet data is the backbone of your business – its protection and recovery should not be left to chance. Why not leverage the knowledge, skill and experience of an expert in the field?

Even with all these measures in place, the best way to keep your organization safe from harm due to data loss is to verify your backup system by performing regular test restores. This will help identify any problems in advance so they can be fixed – allowing you to avoid getting hit with an ugly surprise when you least need it.

The Smart Way To Assure Backup Success

Unless your team has all the time and expertise required to consistently close all open loops in your backup system, your organization may be at risk of serious harm due to data loss.

Contact us today at 317-857-0150 – before disaster strikes.

Professional E-mail Addresses

04 May 16
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Are you turning business away with your e-mail “saddress”?

We see it all the time and there’s just no excuse for it. It’s just sad, really, when a company is still using an e-mail address that projects a less than professional image to its recipients. What do we mean by that?

Look at your e-mail address. Does it end in @hotmail, @gmail, or—don’t make me say it–@aol? I just URLed in my mouth a little. The time has come to make some simple changes that will have far reaching effects on your business and its perception with your intended audience.

The fastest, easiest and most inexpensive change you can make is to have an e-mail account that links to your business’s domain. For example, joesmith@WidgetCorp.com. This is a simple matter of linking any e-mail account you may use, such as gmail, through your company’s domain. The back end secret is yours; recipients will never see signs of gmail. They only see a business that’s all business.

Another suggestion is to avoid using a clever descriptive name or nickname as part of your e-mail address, like SwankyLover@WidgetCorp.com. You might think it is clever and that it makes you stand out—and it does, but not in the way you want for a professional business. Customers will not find it easy to take SwankyLover seriously, nor will they risk taking a chance on a “persona” rather than a straightforward actual person. Use your name. It shows you are professional and mean business. It lets people know who they’re talking to.

Make sure the body of those e-mails look good, too, by regularly employing templates. There’s nothing worse than a customer receiving hastily written e-mails littered with typos. The easy way to avoid that is the use of templates—pre-written text for the types of communications you have to send out repeatedly. You can actually purchase template programs for this scenario. Another way is to create your own set of templates and store them on Google drive so that all of your employees have access to them. This also creates a consistent level of quality across the company and helps employees who may not have the writing skill set you wish they did.

A closing tip: if you and your employees have signature lines (bio type descriptions) at the end of your e-mails, keep it to one or two sentences, not a novella. If you want people to know more, just include a link so they can make the choice themselves to click through. Putting people off by annoying them with excessive self-promotion is something easily avoided—so why not take the terse road.

We’re delighted to help you take the sad out of e-mail addresses and show your business in the best possible light. For other tips and tricks to gain the advantage using technology, contact TechnoAdvantage today.

Put the Zip Back into Google Chrome

23 Mar 16
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Like the old story of the frog that gradually, unwittingly gets itself boiled in a pot of water, users of the Google Chrome browser may not realize they’ve been cooking in their own accumulated data bits, suddenly finding one day that their browser is operating super slowly or crashing all the time. Because Chrome is the most widely used, popular browser on planet Earth, it’s worth mentioning these easy tips for putting the zip back into your Chrome.

Of all the techy problems you can have, slow browsing is probably one of the most annoying, in our humble opinion. You’re fast, brilliant, efficient, productive—yet you can’t get this darn page to load up so all your work comes to a screeching halt.

Don’t be the frog—don’t simmer to death in a slow Google Chrome browser. Here is a three-pronged philosophy for getting Chrome back to optimum speed:

  1. Clear Your History Often

If you’re like most people and you might be since the average person is like most people, then you don’t even think about the accumulated history gathering in your cache. For every visit you make to a website, that browser data is stored in a virtual storage bin. Over time, the bin gets stuffed with bits of information that sucks up memory and causes your software to struggle to get things done. This can be easily remedied by making a habit of clearing your data history and cache periodically. Give yourself a reminder alarm to clean it out every month; it’s simple and can make a big difference.

  1. The Fewer Plugins, the Better

Again, the average user probably isn’t even aware of how many plugins they’ve downloaded over time. If your Chrome browser is running slowly, it might be time to check this. Just type “Chrome:plugins” into your browser bar and it will reveal all your plugins currently in use. Even if you are not actively using them, each plugin will load and remain operational, thusly clogging up your browser with unnecessary software data bits. Simply uninstall or disable those you do not use. Feeling lighter? Good—there’s one more tip.

  1. Clean Up Your Extensions

Here’s another one you’ve probably been collecting each time you see a cool new thing to add to your Chrome experience. Pinterest, Hola, Pockets, WOT, Last Pass—the list goes on. You may have extension overload. Just type “chrome://extensions” into the browser to see your collection. Now which ones are you still actually using? Get rid of the rest, and this—combined with steps one and two above—will start to free up memory and create a leaner, faster cheetahlike Chrome. And that means a less annoyed, more productive, more efficient you.

Contact Techno Advantage for additional IT advantages to learn better smarter ways to get things done.

Don’t Let a Power Outage Take You Out

15 Feb 16
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Dealing with a natural (or unnatural) disaster can have devastating effects on your work and business. There’s one you can prepare for that will give you peace of mind in one major area and that is a power outage. Power outages can be caused by a number of sources, including traffic accidents knocking down utility poles in your area to major storms causing an outage in an entire region.

While this may not seem like a huge threat to your business, know that over the past 15 years, the number of power outages has increased steadily from year to year, now occurring at a rate of six times higher than what they were in 2000—with no sign of decreasing.

The reasons for this are a combination of an aging infrastructure and the sheer growth of our country’s technology and the demands it places on our power grids.

But what to do when the power goes out?

The time to think about that is not then but now. Preparing your business for a power outage is not an area to be overlooked. Not to be a downer, but like death and paying taxes, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Here’s how you can prepare now:

Step 1. Identify critical areas of your business that would be affected, including:

  • Utilities such as gas, water, electric, sewer
  • Heating and ventilations systems
  • Security, alarm systems
  • Elevators
  • Voice and data communications systems
  • Servers and associated cooling systems
  • Computer networks

Step 2: Prepare backup plan:

  • Have an alternate communication plan in place in the event of a power down so that you can contact key personnel.
  • Identify key players in your organization who will be your team on standby should an outage occur—and make sure they know their roles in an emergency.
  • Prearrange a plan with backup vendors if and when primary suppliers are unable to meet your needs.
  • Ensure onsite backup power source is ready and in working order, checking its status regularly.
  • As part of your data recovery, move IT infrastructure to the cloud for accessibility.

There’s power in being prepared for what seems to be the inevitable power outage. The cost of not being prepared could mean the difference between staying functional and being completely cut off—because it only takes one big loss to have a devastating impact on your business. So get your people and plan in place, both inside and outside with key suppliers and offsite data hosting. Then when the lights go out, you’ll be in business. Contact us today for more power IT solutions.

What can hosted workspaces do for your business?

16 Dec 15
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As our culture continually evolves more and more toward mobility and flexibility with the use of tablets, smartphones and notebook computers, business is happening all the time, everywhere, in places we never would have dreamed. Companies are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies to make it easy for their employees to maintain a productive pace after they leave the office. And there’s a growing trend emerging to make it work to a company’s advantage.

The concept of a hosted workspace involves a desktop environment situated on a remote server that provides a “virtual office” where employees’ own personal devices can be used to do business seamlessly and relatively safely. Users have easy access from their various devices, from virtually anywhere they may be—inside or outside the office.

It provides a nice little setup giving users a way to interact and work with all of a company’s data, applications and programs just as they would a traditional desktop computer environment—but without the stationary, cumbersome, and costlier machines anchoring them to workstations.

The hosted workspace means that, as a business, you are saving on equipment costs and the constant software upgrades that go along with these conventional setups. Hosted workspaces work and grow with you no matter what the size of your company.

If you fear less security with a mobile environment, your fears are unfounded. The opposite is actually true. Hosted workspaces are proven more secure—providing built in security features, including virus protection and secure cloud server storage for your data. And if you think about what you could lose should your security be breached in a traditional office computer environment, you’re looking at what can be a devastating loss.

So for many businesses, hosted workspaces offer the best advantages that mobile technology has to offer, while keeping your employees nimble and efficient—to do business anywhere. We think that’s a pretty cool idea. Contact us here to find out how TechnoAdvantage can help you craft your own hosted workspace.

Getting Your Tweet On: What Businesses Need To Know

28 Oct 15
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Part of using technology to your advantage includes having a social media presence where your customers are. And that may mean Twitter is a part of your mix. Even if you’re uncomfortable with (or fearful of) this environment, you need to push past that if you want to be a player.

So the primary question now isn’t really Should my business be tweeting? But rather How often? And to follow up on that: What do I tweet?

There are no perfect answers to these questions. The best approach is to just go for it—develop some sort of plan and implement it and see what feels right for your business and your audience. Then keep tweaking it.

The plan might include:

  • Set days you will tweet. Example: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • A balanced mix of tweet types: stories, news, case studies, offers, “asks”
  • Relevant posts—not posting just to post. Don’t blast the universe every day with meaningless tweets. Think about whether you’d engage with it. Is it interesting? Are you helping someone? Are you offering something?
  • Engage with what is happening. If you tweet but never keep an eye on the responses, you won’t know if your audience is being engaged in our message. You should check Facebook and Twitter every day, and respond to your customers in real time.
  • Be flexible. Try posting tweets at different times of the day to determine when your customers are most active. Test different types of tweets to see what gets attention. Keep refining your strategy.
  • Research your audiences’ tweeting habits. While Facebook offers analytical tools to determine customer activity, Twitter does not, unfortunately.

There are many third-party resources out there to help you, including:

  • Tweriod: This free Twitter tool will tell you when the best times are to tweet as well as analyze your tweets and your customers’ tweets.
  • SocialBro: Helps you optimize your Twitter strategy by analyzing your top 100 twitter followers and producing a report to help you engage specifically with that audience. It also has expanded Social Marketing and Listening and Insight services available at reasonable cost.
  • HootSuite Auto-schedule: Use this tool to schedule tweets to post automatically for you at the prime times when past tweets have performed well.

We give a tweet about your business and keeping it lively and engaging for your customers, using technology to your advantage. For more ideas, contact Techno Advantage today!